30 August, 2008

Sabbath a'Brakel: A Self-Examined Ministry

Let every minister consider and reflect before the Lord, examining himself and answering upon the following questions: Have I been sent of God, or did I run myself? Do I know what pertains to this office? Was I convinced that I had some aptitude for this as far as external knowledge is concerned, and am I likewise spiritually acquainted with the experience of regeneration, faith, hope, love, holiness, God's dealings with the soul, spiritual warfare, and the various conditions of the soul, in order to bring forth old and new things out of the treasure of my heart, to address everyone according to his condition, and particularly to give everyone publicly and privately his portion by way of personal experience, and to speak from heart to heart? Did I have a special love to preach Christ, to be instrumental to the conversion of souls, and to promote the welfare of the church? Was I continually stirred up in my soul to accept this work? Has it been my concern whether or not the Lord has sent me, and have I prayed much in order to know this? Have I at times been desirous not to be engaged in this work, considering the magnitude of this task and my inability? Were those desires to draw back repeatedly conquered by love for this work, or was I frequently put at ease and confirmed in my intention? Have I been troubled by ulterior motives which time and again disappeared by perceiving my sincere motive in the presence of the Lord? Did I perceive a frame of heart by which I was willing to deny myself by parting with material goods, honor, and my life for the Lord Jesus and His church? Or did I only pursue honor and prestige, the acquisition of material goods by which to improve my temporal circumstances, and which, outside of this office, would have been poor and insignificant? Or had I advanced in my studies to such a degree that I of necessity had to proceed? Did I ever really examine myself concerning these matters, or did I merely run without such self-examination?

26 August, 2008

Those Liberal Churches and Their Programs!

Think that programs to care for the poor and hurting are for today's liberal churches? Maybe that is because the so-called conservative churches are not doing their biblical responsibilities to the poor, orphan, and widow in her midst. Here is an interesting article on the 16th c. Puritan, William Perkins on 'mercy ministry'.

25 August, 2008

The Expressions of the Heart

Psalm singing is designed by God to provide for every expression in humanity's experience of God. Calvin said that God gave us an anatomy of the soul in the Psalter. This means that every expression of religious thought and feeling is found within the Psalter. There is truly a psalm for every human experience, thus showing the divinity in this inspired hymnal.

The lessons and encouragements which we obtain from other parts of the Old Testament are frequently drawn indirectly by a process of inference, for which we are not always in the right frame of mind and the proper spiritual mood. But the in Psalms, whatever our mood, whether we are exultant or downcast, vigorous or weary, penitent or believing, we can always find our hearts mirrored there. It needs no process of reasoning to make their sentiments our own. Here the language of the Bible comes to meet the very thoughts of our hearts before these can even clothe themselves in language and we recognize that we could not have expressed them better than the Spirit has here expressed them for us. At first sight, this may easily seem strange to us when we remember that the the psalmists lived under the conditions of a typical and preparatory dispensation; that on many points they saw through a glass darkly, whereas we, who live in the full light of the complete gospel, see face to face. But for the very reason that the Psalms reflect that experimental religion of the heart, which is unvarying at all times and under all circumstances, we need not greatly wonder at this. The influx of the divine light, whether more or less strong, must always produce the identical effect of joy, hope and peace in every soul to which it comes. The well at which we drink may flow more abundantly than that at which the psalmists drank, but the experience of thirst, of drinking and of satisfaction must still be the same as it was in the time of David. -Geerhardus Vos

23 August, 2008

Sabbath a'Brakel: The Church

This one church is made up of all the elect who have been called from the beginning of the world and are yet to be called until the end of the world. They are Christ's peculiar people (Titus 2:14). "To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven" (Heb. 12:23); "...Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it" (Eph. 5:25). This one congregation is partially in heaven, and is called the church triumphant, to which reference is made in Revelation 7:9-16. This, however, is not the subject of discussion here. This congregation exists also partially upon earth and is called the church militant. It is the church militant which is the subject of this chapter. One can view this church either in its entirety, dispersed throughout the entire world, or as individual congregations in a nation, city, or village. As such one can refer to the church of England, of the Netherlands, or of Rotterdam (II: 5).

19 August, 2008

Who Is To Blame: Preacher or Pew Warmer?

Many people ask what is wrong with Reformed churches? Why are so many not growing? Why do we receive the slander of 'the frozen chosen' or 'the dead orthodox'? Truthfully, if one is chosen- he will not be frozen. There are imperatives in the Scripture that move us to be anything but frozen. And if one is orthodox, then he will not be dead, because orthodoxy requires us to have orthopraxy (right practice). Sadly, preachers want to accuse many in the pews of being the problem. We hear, 'People want to be entertained, they do not want sound preaching and demands on their lives.' Martyn Lloyd-Jones saw the problem from the other end- he blamed the preacher first; and saw the preacher's problem finding its way into the pew:

The time has come when we must assess the whole situation . It is entirely wrong to take our problems to the people; we have got to preach what is most profitable for them, what is really going to help them. The main problem of evangelicalism today (apart from slipping away from truth) is the lack of power- what do our people know of 'joy in the Holy Ghost'? You will not win people to teaching if you are a dull teacher! The wife of a deacon said to me about someone she had heard, 'He is unlike so many of our Reformed preachers who are so dull.' If you preach without moving people, you have failed as much as others. If we do not know the joy of the Lord what is the value of what we say? We must start with ourselves. To hear of 'excellent lectures on doctrine' being given on a Sunday is truly appalling. Are you right in assuming those in front of you are enjoying the Christian life, and they are able to convict others? These two things go together. Arguing about niceties will not help us. What is the value of anything if we are not living epistles?

18 August, 2008

Shawn Anderson Enters the 2008 Election... Well, His Thoughts, at Least.

As a follow up to the 'Reformed Covenanter' discussion on politics- here is Shawn Anderson's post that gives his 2 pennies on the McBama campaign.

16 August, 2008

Sabbath a'Brakel: Discerning the Inward Call to the Ministry

First of all, a knowledge of the office. One must know what it means to be a servant of Christ, to be the mouth of the Lord, to proclaim that great gospel, to teach ignorant men the way of salvation, to be instrumental in delivering men from the devil, and to lead them to Christ. One must know that it consists in comforting those who mourn, stirring up the indolent, bringing back those who have strayed, exposing hypocrites and temporal believers to themselves, defending the truth against error, rebuking the ungodly, helping to keep out or expelling from the church those who lead offensive lives, and adorning the church, so that by the holiness of those who profess the truth she would bring glory to Christ. One must know that it consists in being an example and in being able to give an account of the souls entrusted to him. How can he who is neither thoroughly acquainted with these matters, nor perceives the weightiness of it all, nor takes this to heart, have intentions to be faithful? All of this must be known, considered, and experienced in order to be conscious of one's calling.

Secondly, there must be some knowledge of one's aptitude for this work. A fundamental knowledge of divine truths and thus being satisfied with a speculative knowledge of these is not sufficient. Rather, one must experience the power of these truths in his own heart, having been converted thereby. He will thus be able to speak from his own experience. He must also have the aptitude to clearly express his thoughts, and must have a voice which is capable of being heard by others. Even though the most qualified person must say, "Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Cor. 2:16), one must nevertheless be conscious of some aptitude. Shortly we shall consider this aptitude more comprehensively.

Thirdly, there must be an extraordinary love a) for Christ and a desire to make Him known; b) for the church to present her as a chaste virgin to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2), and to cause her to shine forth with light and holiness to the honor of God; c) for the souls of the unconverted to snatch them from the fire, as well as of the converted to strengthen, comfort, and continually provide them with spiritual food.

Fourthly, one must be willing to deny all that is of the world, such as honor, material goods, yes and even life itself. If someone is of low social status and wishes to become someone of renown or to acquire material goods by way of the ministry, his objective is entirely wrong. He would be much happier as a shoemaker, for in my opinion there is no man more abominable than an unregenerate minister who uses the holy things of God to his own advantage.

Fifthly, there must be a great desire for this work (1 Tim. 3:1). There must be continual stirrings to give oneself to the Lord by way of this work, and there must be a concern about whether or not one is called. There must be anxiety when ulterior motives are perceived in the heart which in turn causes one to entertain the thought to refrain from this work; or when the heaviness of the task, and a sense of inability causes one to look up against this work, engendering a desire to be relieved from this work, as with Moses and Jeremiah. The stirrings will nevertheless persist and overcome the objections. This in turn will give him more liberty before the Lord and he will find himself more willing than beforehand because by the objections he will have a clearer view of the motives of his heart. Then his heart does not condemn him, but rather convinces him of his sincerity in this matter.

15 August, 2008

Everything Must Change?

A few weeks ago I was given a personal invitation to meet Brian McLaren at Baker Book House. He will be in the Grand Rapids' store on Saturday, August 16. I have read some of Brian's works and enjoy some of it and am really bothered by much of it. What bothers me the most is that a Christian leader that many-many-many generation Xers look up to has no real answers- only questions. I guess that is part of the joys of postmodernity. Quite sad really. Jesus Christ had answers, gave answers, and charged the Apostles (the ministers of the Word of the day) to have answers.

We (read: this present generation) need some answers.

Today I was in Baker Book House picking up some books. There was a giant poster of Brian meeting me at the door. The profound 'catch em' quote was this:

I've always had a propensity to think a few degrees askew from most people, especially about religion. And not only am I often unsatisfied with conventional answers, but even worse, I've consistently been unsatisfied with conventional questions.

The quote is taken from his latest-and-greatest-rock'em-sock'em-best-seller called, Everything Must Change.

Sad really. We serve a consistent God that changes not. We have a timeless and biblical religion that transcends ages. Does everything have to change?


Here is Tim Challies review.

A little taste:
It seems increasingly clear that the new kind of Christian McLaren seeks is no kind of Christian at all. The church on the other side of his reinvention is a church devoid of the glorious gospel of Christ’s atoning death. It is a church utterly stripped of its power because it is a church stripped of the gospel message. McLaren’s new gospel is a social gospel, a liberal gospel and, in fact, no gospel at all.


11 August, 2008

13th Century Worship Wars

Why must we be different? It is rare today to go into a Protestant Church of any kind and find that people praise God with only their voices. The worship wars (which are officially over, according to evangelical scholars) between the organs and the praise band never took us into account. Those who praise God acapella are in the very small minority today, and were never consulted as to our thoughts on the worship wars.

So why be different? If less than 5% of the Western Church chooses to sing acapella- then what is the argument? It does not seem as though we have a leg to stand on in our argument. The Church of Jesus Christ DOES USE instruments in worship. That is just the fact.

But it was not always that way: Hear this selection from Nick Needham's (who, as far as I know, uses instruments in worship) book on Church history, 2000 Years of Christ's Power:

In the period 900-1100...organs began to become common features of the great western abbys and cathedral churches... At first the organ was used simply to give the right note for the monks and choir (like a tuning fork)... This period (900-1100) did not actually lead to a widespread use of instruments in ordinary parish churches and thus in normal Western Catholic worship. Even in the great abbeys and cathedrals the organ's use was limited... Some historical sources speak of an organ controversy in the 13th century, which resulted in the Catholic Church's declaring against the use of organs. Thomas Aquinas... confirms this, for Aquinas simply repeated the way that the early Church fathers had condemned all musical instruments in Christian worship: "The Church does not use musical instruments such as the harp and lyre when praising God, in case she should seem to fall back into Judaism..." In fact, it was not until after Aquinas in the 14th and 15th centuries, that the playing of musical instruments became a widespread, regular and accepted feature of ordinary Western worship.

So, the first 14-15 centuries of Christian worship were without instruments in worship. Then the Reformed churches abandoned them in the 16th century. That means that 3/4 of Christian history is acapella worship.

If I were in a church that used instruments, that figure alone would compel me to investigate the reason why.

09 August, 2008

Sabbath a'Brakel: Exclusive Psalmody

The decision of the Dutch Synods has been very correct indeed, namely, that none other but the Psalms of David are to be used in the churches (IV: 35).

03 August, 2008

Tim Keller on the Problem of Fanatics

We all know them. Many of us, in our immaturity, have been them. But, why, when Christians are being fanatical, do they choose judgment over charity? It is rare to hear that someone is too gracious or too loving or too Christlike. Often we are too sinful to see it.

Lord, let the world see a Church that reflects you instead of the flesh.

Think of the people you consider fanatical. They're overbearing, self-righteous, opinionated, insensitive, and harsh. Why? It's not because they are too Christian but because they are not Christian enough. They are fanatically zealous and courageous, but they are not fanatically humble, sensitive, loving, empathetic, forgiving, or understanding- as Christ was... They emulate the Jesus of the whips in the temple, but not the Jesus who said, 'Let him who is without sin cast the first stone'. What strikes us as overly fanatical is actually a failure to be fully committed to Christ and the Gospel. -Tim Keller

02 August, 2008

Sabbath a'Brakel: Christian Humility

Your name as well as your relationship to the Lord Jesus obligates you to humility. You are named "Christian" after the name of Christ. Your relationship to Him is that you are His bride upon whom He has set His love. The Lord Jesus was humble; the perfect example of humility. Love ought to motivate us to be conformed to Him--more so because He establishes Himself as an example and commands us to follow Him in this: "Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart" (Mat. 11:29).

01 August, 2008

Lectures From the International Conference

Here are the lectures from the RP Conference held last month in Grand Rapids. For the record, there were 1617 in attendance and 95 who registered but did not show up.

If you can only listen to four of them, listen to: Denny Prutow, CJ William, Anthony Selvaggio, and Rick Gamble. (I was not there to hear Dr. O'Neill, so I cannot speak to his lecture... I will listen to it later.)

They say that recordings of the psalm singing will be up soon. Check back frequently.